Newly Renovated Théâtre du Châtelet to Celebrate Reopening

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Newly Renovated Théâtre du Châtelet to Celebrate Reopening
During the weekend of September 13 through 15, Théâtre du Châtelet will reopen its spaces to the public after a 30-month renovation. Giant marionettes from Mozambique accompanied by dozens of drummers will greet people on the Parvis of Hôtel de Ville, perform a short sketch, then join a Jean Cocteau-inspired machine designed by Francis O’Connor in leading a march to the theater, where participants will be invited to explore transformed spaces. These events– including a 15-minute performance of the Marionettes accompanied by amateur drummers, the march with the strange machine and the marionettes, and the activities in the theater– are free and open to the public. As a bonus, 20-minute workshops on circus arts for 20 to 40 children (5 years and older) will be led by l’Académie Fratellini prior to the official gathering times. Official offerings will take place: Evenings: Friday, Sept. 13; Saturday, Sept. 14; and Sunday, September 15 – Gather at Hotel de Ville at 5:45 PM, parade to theater with surprises along the way at 6:00 PM, then engage in activities in the renovated spaces 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM. Afternoons: Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15 – Gather at Hotel de Ville at 12:45 PM, parade to theater with surprises along the way at 1:00 PM, then engage in activities in the renovated spaces 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM. Note that the Saturday afternoon parade might be canceled because of les gilets jaunes. Performances in the main theater, requiring tickets, will take place throughout the weekend, evenings at 8PM and in matinées on Saturday and Sunday at 3PM. They are inspired by the original “Parade”, an iconic ballet conceived by Jean Cocteau that used common everyday sounds like sirens, typewriters, foghorns and pistol shots instead of speeches; featured designs by Pablo Picasso (curtain, costumes and stage set); all accompanied by music composed by Erik Satie. This revolutionary presentation of visual arts, innovative dance, feats often seen only at the circus, and music enriched by unusual sounds and instruments, was the first venture of its kind for its creators in 1917, as well as their first collaboration. The piece, rich with street scenes, shows circus performers inviting people to come into the theater to enjoy their performance. It premiered at Châtelet on May 18, 1917, with choreography by Léonide Massine, and dancers from the Ballet Russe under the direction of Sergei Diaghilev. The production was so out of the ordinary that it inspired Guillaume Apollinaire to create the term “surrealistic” in his program notes, a concept that became widely adopted by the art world three years later. This piece, a complex production, delighted audiences of all ages. Its namesake today, with direction by Martin Duncan, music composed by Matthias Pinscher, sets and costumes by Francis O’Connor, lighting by Sinéad McKenna, performances by Stéphane Ricordel’s Boite Noire (music by the incomparable Dakha-Brakha), Elizabeth Streb’s Extreme Action (accompanied by a Pierre-Yves Macé composition played by the Ensemble Intercomtemporain with Matthias Pintscher directing), complete with a sliding scale for tickets that begins at 10 euros, promises to do likewise. The program seems an inspired choice for Théâtre du Châtelet, known historically for offering the avant-garde, as it ushers in a new era of entertainment for today’s theater-going public. The spectacle, which originally built on the tradition of “féeries”– productions rich in staging, visual surprises and magical transformations– lends itself to contemporary interpretation. The performers this September offer unique talents adapted to the modern age. How they will use the 21st century expanded capacities of the theater is yet to be seen! Wearing both my hats – the psychologist who embraces the value of play and the dedicated Francophile – I look forward to joining the festivities and then sharing reflections with Bonjour Paris readers on ways in which participants engage with the opportunities to celebrate that Théâtre du Châtelet is offering. The re-opening of the theater intrigues me because it incorporates so much that I see as the best that Paris has to offer: Respect for history; a willingness to transform with an eye to the future; appreciation for whimsy, unique combinations, and the importance of play; embracing creativity and a diversity of perspectives; acknowledging the importance of pleasure; recognizing that learning occurs in multiple ways and aggregates over time; and an understanding that props and places create the context where our learning takes place. Let’s review how each of these dimensions plays out through the Théâtre du Châtelet’s re-opening events. Respect for history. Three ingredients of the reopening pop out as particularly respectful of Parisian history. First, Théâtre du Châtelet was originally built between 1860 and 1862. Baron von Haussmann commissioned Gabriel Davioud to create a theater that could accommodate Hippolyte Holstein’s equestrian company, the Théâtre Imperial du Cirque, after he decided to raze its home, the Cirque Olympique on bd du Temple, so that what is now bd Voltaire could be constructed. From the beginning, Théâtre du Châtelet was designed to accommodate large productions with innovative staging. Second, the idea of a parade leading into a new theater mirrors another historic event. When Le Chat Noir, perhaps the first Parisian cabaret, outgrew its tiny Montmartre home, customers in costumes marched from the cheap rental on bd de Rochechouart to a much larger space at 12 rue Victor-Massé. The parade from…

Lead photo credit : Giant marionettes from Mozambique, for the inauguration of the Theatre du Châtelet. Photo credit: Thomas Amouroux

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Roni Beth Tower, author of the award-winning memoir "Miracle at Midlife: A Transatlantic Romance", is a retired clinical, research and academic psychologist and a dedicated Francophile.


  • Roni Beth Tower
    2019-09-02 19:06:28
    Roni Beth Tower
    Interior spaces will be open prior to the admissions for the performances and there will not be a charge to enter the theater and view them - but I do not know if photography will be permitted or not!